Contact lenses are very popular with teenagers for a variety of reasons. For some, it's a matter of convenience. Others are more fashion conscious or just worried about their overall appearance and prefer contacts over glasses. And teens involved in sports often find contacts easier to manage than glasses.
But there is also a great deal of responsibility that comes with wearing contact lenses that many teens just do not realize. Lenses must be treated with care, and properly maintained. Prescriptions must be current, and lenses must properly fit. And since teenagers are still growing and developing, it is especially important for them to have regular eye exams with an optometrist. (Parents need to make sure that this happens)
While some optometrists will recommend contact lenses for patients as young as 8 years old, most eye doctors recommend holding off till ages 11 to 14. Of course, every child is different.
Teens should remember the following contact lens tips:
- Always follow the wearing schedule prescribed by your doctor.
- Always wash your hands with soap and water before applying or removing contact lenses.
- Never use anything other than contact lens rinse or solution to clean contacts (even tap water is a no-no).
- Use contact lens solution only once - never reuse.
- Follow the eye doctor’s advice about swimming or showering in your lenses.
- Always remove your lenses if they are bothering you or causing irritation.
- Never sleep in your lenses (except for extended wear lenses).
- Only wear lenses prescribed by an eye doctor.
- Never purchase cosmetic lenses without a prescription!
Frequently Asked Questions - Contact Lenses for Children
Q. At what age do you recommend children start with contact lenses?
A. As an optometrist, I believe that contact lenses can be worn at any age. But contacts are a privilege and not a right. There is a financial responsibility associated with contact lens wear, as well as the need for overall accountability to avoid eye health issues. Therefore, for young people, I recommend that we wait to try contacts until both the patient and parents are on board. In my experience, if the patient is not wanting contact lenses he/she will not take care of them appropriately and/or will not be successful at handling the lenses. On the flip side, the parent(s) need to agree to assume the financial responsibility of fit, follow up, and materials; also, they must agree that their child is mature enough to take care of the contacts on his/her own.
Q. Can kids wear contact lenses?
A. Contact lens wear is not a matter of age. Many infants and toddlers wear them; some teenagers shouldn't. In other words, every case is different. Some contact lenses can slow the progression of nearsightedness. Contact lenses are better for sports activities. Many children, and most teens would rather wear contacts than glasses. Most eye care professionals report great results with kids and contact lenses. No eye doctor will prescribe contact lenses for children or teenagers who aren't ready for them or who don't have a good reason to wear them.
And of course, contact our office in Los Angeles if you have any questions.